Suthentira Govender – TimesLive
Metro police officers were on high alert yesterday after scores of angry taxi operators protested against the arrests outside the police’s headquarters in central Durban.
Police took a hard-line stance against drivers who are believed to be operating on certain routes without the necessary permits.
Metro police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi, said the police had clamped down on minibus taxi drivers “operating on routes on which they are not authorised to operate”.
The arrests were made in the wake of Mafia-style killings in Brook Street last Wednesday. Three people were killed and three injured.
The killings have been linked to the feud between Durban’s Sonke Long Distance Taxi Association and Port Shepstone’s Zamokuhle Long Distance Taxi Association over lucrative routes.
Twelve people, including President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Mfundo Gcaba, who is accused of being at the heart of the feud, were arrested.
The bail applications of 10 of the 12 will be made tomorrow.
One suspect, who was injured during the shooting, is in hospital under police guard. Another, identified by the police as Blondi Herr-man, was among three people shot dead in Lindelani, north of Durban, on Sunday.
The Brook Street suspects have been charged with three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of public violence.
Said Msomi: “We have observed a surge in violence.
“More than 90% of the conflict in the taxi industry is related to route encroachment. It means that the other parties will get frustrated and retaliate, and we end up with these shootings.”
Msomi said 300 taxi drivers were arrested and more than 300 vehicles impounded for operating on routes other than those authorised.
“This is a campaign sparked by the random shooting. We can no longer accept that. We do understand there are grievances, but we need to enforce the law or else there will be lawlessness.”
Msomi said the seized taxis would remain in the pound until the court cases were finalised.
“We expect tension, but we have been in this situation before. These people came this morning to protest. Whether they strike, or whatever they do, is entirely up to them,” he said.
To date, six people have been killed since the war over routes broke out about two months ago.
Another factor in the war between the Sonke and Zamokuhle associations is the use of the Brook Street taxi rank.
The Durban High Court ruled recently that Zamo-kuhle should continue to use the rank. But Sonke, which is challenging the court’s decision, has argued that the allocation is “questionable” because its rival’s principal place of business is Port Shepstone, not Durban.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Willies Mchunu said: “The killing and maiming of people is totally unacceptable and poses a serious threat to the generally peaceful province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“We have ordered all the law enforcement agencies to work around the clock and leave no stone unturned to ensure the perpetrators of these nefarious deeds are brought to justice.”